Critter Culture
What to Look For When Your Cats Start Fighting

What to Look For When Your Cats Start Fighting

Critter Culture Staff



Cats tend to be solitary creatures. That doesn't mean that two cats can't share the same home; cats can form close bonds with other feline housemates, especially if they've lived together their whole lives. What it does mean is that two cats sharing one home may be more prone to fighting. Owners can easily become tired of separating their angry cats or confused when cats who typically get along well are suddenly at each other's throats. Some fights are inevitable, but by understanding the reasons for kitty combat, owners can better respond to conflict and possibly prevent it before it begins.


They're naturally territorial

Two cute kittens play fighting with a toy at home NickyLloyd / Getty Images

Cats may become protective of specific rooms, items, or even people. One way to reduce territorial aggression in cats is to have them spayed or neutered, especially for males. Owners can help their cats feel secure by giving them equal attention and ensuring they have their own spaces to sleep, eat, relax, and use the litter box.


They're competing for resources

two cats eating and drinking water Nils Jacobi / Getty Images

Scarcity can make cats competitive, even if it's only in their mind. Try to make sure there are plenty of toys, food, and attention to go around. Ideally, each cat should have their own bed, scratching post, and litter box. Separate their food and water dishes, so the cats don't feel that they need to compete during mealtimes.


They're reacting to a change

two cats on a chair Akimasa Harada / Getty Images

Cats are creatures of habit. Even a small change like redecorating a room or trying out a new cat food can stress them out, and cats may take that stress out on each other. Expect more fights during major transition periods like moving or a new baby. Owners can also help soothe their cats and reduce their anxious energy by playing with them and giving them extra affection during times of change.


They're playing

two kittens playing

Playfighting is an important part of cat socialization, especially among kittens. If the cats take turns to pounce and defend, their bodies are relaxed, and their ears point forward, they're likely not in actual distress. A playfight can turn serious, so keep an eye on the cats and separate them if it becomes too heated.


They aren't familiar with each other

Two cats looking at each other Sally Anscombe / Getty Images

It may take time to introduce cats to one another. Keep them in different rooms and start with brief, calm meetings in neutral spaces, so both cats have time to adjust to one another. Separate them if they begin to fight. Sometimes it helps to feed the cats on either side of a closed door, so they associate each other's scent with positive experiences.


They can't get away from each other

two cats in a cat tower w-ings / Getty Images

When cats are in conflict, their first instinct is usually to avoid one another. When they're forced into proximity and don't have a place to retreat, the claws tend to come out. Try to provide multiple hiding places like cat shelves, perches, and cat sizes boxes in quiet corners. The amount and type of space each cat needs may depend on their breed, history, and temperament.


They're afraid

two cats looking at each other Jacques Julien / Getty Images

Redirected aggression is a common behavior among cats. They're upset by a noise or the scent of a person or animal outside. The cat can't do anything about the source of their discomfort, so they take it out on the other cat in the home. Humans can't always sense whatever's setting their cats off, but if both cats seem on edge, it may be best to keep them separated until they calm down.


They're becoming socially mature

mature cat and a kitten

Cats change as they grow, just like people do. As kittens grow into maturity between 2 and 5 years old, they take more control over their activities. This can cause conflict between a mature cat and kitten or between two kittens who are growing up into adult cats with different preferences. Sometimes this is temporary. In other cases, owners may need to consult a behavioral specialist or rearrange the home to meet both cats' needs.


They're bored

two cats running outdoors Nils Jacobi / Getty Images

Cats are highly energetic, intelligent creatures who need plenty of playtime. An under-stimulated cat might start chasing or biting their housemate in good fun, but it can quickly turn into a fight. Owners can reduce this conflict by playing with their cats. Daily play helps cats feel secure and happy and works off their extra energy so they don't turn it on one another.


They don't get along

two cats play fighting Margarita Orlovskaia / Getty Images

Sometimes cats just don't like one another. Sometimes personalities clash, or you've got a particularly solitary cat, or there may be a long-standing grudge between your kitties. Cat behavioral experts might be able to train the cats to get along more peacefully, but no one can force cats to like each other when they just don't. In extreme cases, one cat may need to be re-homed in order for both of them to live peacefully.


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